A false public announcement at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) unnerved 20 passengers to the extent that they fled the gate area to the tarmac Monday, authorities said. A mistaken public announcement was made that a gunman was on the loose at LAX.
The “misinformed” message from the public address system apparently stemmed from police activity outside Terminal 2, where officers had pursed an unarmed driver to the departures level, LAX police Sgt. Belinda Joseph said.
Police had responded to an emergency call around 9 a.m. that a man may be attempting suicide off airport property. They apprehended the man, and the fire department took him to a hospital for treatment of an unspecified condition – “but someone said that there was a man with a gun, which was not true,“ Joseph said.
“The man initially refused to respond to the officers who came there to help him,” Joseph told City News Service. “During the incident, the man suddenly ran from the officers, got into a vehicle and tried to flee the scene.”
Somehow the rumor swirled fast enough to make its way onto the public address system. It is not immediately clear who made the announcement, the Miami Herald reported.
About 20 passengers reached the tarmac through emergency doors near the gates, airport police Sgt. Karla Ortiz said. The travelers were “under observation the whole time” they were near planes, and officers were able to restore order within 15 minutes, Joseph added.
The incident comes after a gunman targeted LAX in November 2013, killing a Transportation Security Administration screening agent. Paul Ciancia faces federal charges for the crime which could bring him the death penalty if sentenced. The New Jersey native pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges that stemmed from the incident.
In 2002, a limousine driver opened fire at a ticket counter, killing an airline employee and a person who was dropping a friend off at the airport.